Hero Pose (Virasana)

How to Do Hero Pose - Virasana
Hero Pose - Virasana. Ann Pizer

Type of pose: Seated

Benefits: Stretches the quads and ankles, improves posture.

One of the things that yoga students often struggle with is getting comfortable sitting cross-legged. It's especially difficult for people who are very tight in the area around the hips. Students often feel that sitting cross-legged is so quintessentially "yoga" that it must crucial to the practice, especially if you plan to meditate.

And while it is good to work on opening those tight muscles, all this is a very roundabout way of saying that you absolutely do not have to be able to sit cross-legged to do yoga or even to meditate. Because, virasana.

Though it is a massive stretch for the quads, sitting in virasana is actually much easier and more comfortable for most people than sitting cross-legged, especially if you place a block under your butt. If you plan to sit still for more than a few minutes, as you would for a meditation session, give it a try. Virasana is also more conducive to keeping your shoulders over your hips, which helps the spine align so that your back doesn't ache while you are sitting.

Do be very careful of the knees in this pose. If you have any knee pain, try raising the hips more by sitting on a block or two to decrease the pressure on your knees. If that doesn't help, it's ok to skip this pose.

Each body is different and you have to find what works best for yours.

Instructions:

1. Start in an upright kneeling position with your hips over your knees and the tops of your feet flat on the mat.

2. Keep your knees together as you separate your feet to either side until they are about 18 inches apart.

This will vary somewhat depending on your size, but basically you are spreading the feet apart to make room for your butt to come down to the floor between them. Do note that the feet are separating but the knees are staying together.

3. Lower your butt to sit on the floor between your feet. You may need to manually move your calf muscles out of the way to make this happen.

4. Make sure that you are not sitting on your feet, but rather between them with the tops of your feet on the floor (meaning the toes are not tucked under).

5. Your feet should point straight back, turning neither inward nor outward.

6. Slide your shoulders away from your ears. Rest your hands in your lap.

Beginners' Tips:

1. Take padding under your seat if necessary. Use yoga blocks or a folded blanket, depending on how high you need to be.

2. The foot position in this pose can cause foot cramps. Here's some advice on what to do about them.

3. Take this pose slowly so you can be sure that you feel the difference between a big quad stretch and knee pain in the joint.

Advanced Tips:

1. If you feel very comfortable seated, move on to reclined hero pose (supta virasana).

2. Lower to your elbows first and make sure that your knees are still ok before you try to lie all the way back.

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